The One-Year Retrospective

It’s funny how days go by so slowly and years pass quickly. As I write this piece, it has been a year since I started “Purely For Sport.”

This blog began on Christmas Eve 2012, a product of my love for sports and writing, combined with the unfortunate circumstance of a denied Journalism class at my school. I had about two weeks off for school vacation and had been entertaining the thought of writing – something, anything – because that is what I love to do. A suggestion from a friend’s father to write about sports and a Google search revealing multiple websites that offered free blogging processers set me off, ready to begin.

I wrote in the Pilot, “Overall, my goal in setting up this blog is to make a deadline for myself. I hope to publish a story at least every Monday, hopefully more.” That was my mission statement. I had set a goal and, in my mind, the time-frame of a year seemed a perfect sample-size to see how exactly I had done in attempting to succeed in this endeavor.

I knew that my readership would begin small (thanks Mom and Dad and my grandparents!), so that eliminated any possibility of my blog being a “hard-news site” because people will not read a small blog for breaking news. Breaking news is the property of USA Today, ESPN, and Fox, they count on information that no one has heard before for readers. Therefore, I knew I had to be different; I had to work with my opinions, stating what I believed and letting others contradict me. And I love it. Arguing about how good a Quarterback truly is (whether success is attributable to solely him or his team) or if hockey should allow fighting is enjoyable for me.

So I made bold predictions. Some were grossly wrong: I blasted the offseason-signings by Ben Cherrington and predicted that the 2013 Red Sox would finish 10 games below .500 – they subsequently finished with Major League Baseball’s best record and won the World Series. I said the 2013-14 NBA season was Carmelo Anthony’s for the taking – the New York Knicks are 8-17, fourth in the Atlantic. SO MUCH WRONG!

I also did what any responsible blogger does, which is to criticize. My guffaw at the poor showing of ESPN’s NFL “Draft Experts” on draft day, or a shredding annotation of Ryan Braun’s apology, or a critical analysis of ESPN’s relationship with the NHL, or even why Thursday Night Football exists. These cynical looks helped to sharpen my critical eye and me not only listen to the things I heard on TV or read in magazines – it made me evaluate the entire product with presentation, timing, note-worthiness, etc.

So I set to work; writing, editing, and publishing became a normal Monday routine. I would like to thank my Father for being my editor through these posts. He has edited articles on things such as Brian Wilson and his beard very late at night when I am sure he would have loved to be doing various other things, sleeping chiefly among them.

It was – and will continue to be hard work – as sometimes it seemed to be a down week for news or, becoming bogged down with other priorities in life, I would begin writing late. Never analyze Cam Newton and the Panthers chances of making the playoffs past ten in the evening. It’s a bad choice. But knowing that I consistently kept up with publishing stories every Monday for an entire year is a great source of pride for me and it is an accomplishment I cherish.

I also wrote in the pilot that, “The goal of this blog is to simulate a real work-style environment and prepare me for what I hope will be an illustrious and prospering career in journalism” which leads me to the value I have earned from Purely For Sport.

It started out slowly. The fall before I had announced games a local football team, and reached out to the local paper so I could write articles. I established a connection at The Fosters Daily Democrat (Dover, NH) in the sports editor-in-chief, Mike Whaley. I sent in my articles promptly after each of the Titans’ games and Whaley would respond to me with tips and constructive criticism. I started sending him some Purely for Sport posts, none of which he published at first. Then, up in Aroostook County, Maine (potato country, close to Canada for those who do not recognize the name), my Grandmother told the Editor, Joseph Cyr, about me and my love for writing. He emailed me and asked for a submission, so I sent him a copy of “In John We Trust.” He liked it. I remember vividly the day I got an email that said I had been printed in The Houlton Pioneer Times (Houlton, ME) when I was in an aquarium in Monterey on family vacation.

It may have been a small-town paper, but I was elated. I had been published and I craved more. I began sending articles biweekly and, with one newspaper on my resumé, Whaley printed a small, 200-word story that I had written about the Red Sox success.

Then May and June rolled around and I lost some of the steam I had built due to finals and an increased workload at school. By the end of June I had moved to Bailey Island, Maine for the summer (something I have done since the eighth grade) and taken on a full-time job at the Island Ice Cream store, Tiffins. I continued Purely For Sport and I remember being in the shop at work when my phone started buzzing ferociously. When my shift ended for the day, I read that the commotion was caused by Aaron Hernandez, Patriots Tight End, who was alleged to have shot and killed a 27-year old man. As brutal as the situation was, I knew it was news so I wrote a story about successful athletes who have difficulty in distancing themselves from gang-member friends they had as teens.

One week later I got an email from Jennifer Miller, a PR rep for FanDuel.com, a fantasy football web site. She had googled Aaron Hernandez news and seen Purely For Sport as a top site. She explored it and thought, “the blog’s writing and presentation are both professional quality.” So, in turn, her client would pay a nominal fee for my publication of a piece predicting the top-5 fantasy football Running Backs this coming season. I was getting paid for my blog. I was psyched, pumped, amped – whatever you want to call it.

I began to get more into blogging and followed Curt Hogg on Twitter, the 16-year old kid who had broken the Ryan Braun story about the reversal of suspension due to PEDs. Through him I found out about SportsCompass, a web-show for which I am now a panelist.

Then, in conjunction with a friend of mine, Kyle Stevens, we started a podcast and added another friend of ours, Justin Demers, to the crew. It is all about the the pigskin, called “NFL Rundown,” and is available through the iTunes store. It is uploaded every Wednesday night and gives previews and predictions of all the games on the upcoming weekend.

That built my confidence. I wanted more, so I applied at RantSports.com and got a job there, blogging about the Boston Red Sox I love so dearly. (Much thanks to Christopher Gamble and all the editors there.)

But I could not stop there. I wanted to go bigger than Rant Sports so I began calling WEEI, 93.7, a sports talk-show station, and NESN, the TV station that broadcasts Bruins and Sox games.

Eventually I scheduled job shadows with Joe Zarbano of WEEI and Sara Giannandrea at NESN. My unending gratitude goes out to them for helping me get my foot in the proverbial door.

At NESN, I was surprised to see their studios sharing a building with a chemical supply company in Watertown. I spent a few hours with Zack Cox, a staff writer there, and Steve Perrault, a video editor. The most startling thing was the huge, yellow statue of a bull they had in the middle of the workspace with Bobby Orr’s famous headlong, post-goal dive along with his signature. In a production meeting for NESN “Sports Tonight” – their SportsCenter – to hear them discuss time allocations for segments like, “Why the hell are we giving Joe Torre ten seconds, should be five!” and the raucous cheer of approval when it was decided they would lead the show with Bill Mueller, old Fenway favorite for his Dirt Dog play, and his new job as Chicago Cubs hitting coach. Perrault especially showed me the subtle nuances to video-editing and it was a rewarding experience to be in such an environment where people were as passionate about sports as I am.

At WEEI I shadowed Kirk Minihane on the Dennis and Callahan morning commute show. The show starts at six AM. All involved with the show had to be there at five AM. I live two hours away. Up at 2:30 and out of the house by three in the morning was not ideal, but I knew I had to do what was necessary to show I wanted to do this job. Chris Curtis, the producer, had me sit in the sound booth with him during the show.

At one point, Gerry Callahan, a host, could not find a hitting spray-chart for Curtis Granderson, an Outfielder the Sox were rumored to have interest in. From looking up things of that nature for Purely For Sport I knew exactly where to go – a hit-tracking web site that shows all homeruns from a players previous seasons. I photoshopped an overlay of the Fenway Park dimensions to show if that short porch in Right Field was helping Granderson have better numbers than his ability warrants and gave it to Gerry. He loved it. Chris was impressed by the ability to “think on my feet.”

Click here for the audio clip.

If you skip to about 1:20 in the above audio segment, Kirk comes back into the studio from when he and I went down to breakfast. At the end of the segment, Chris mentions having me in for the summer. He did that, turned to me, and offered. I was stunned.

So for two days per week this upcoming summer, I am very excited to announce that I will work on the Dennis and Callahan Show as an intern.

John Dennis Tweet

Working on the show that day was incredible. Gerry Callahan, John Dennis, Kirk Minihane, Stich, and Chris Curtis were great people to work alongside. The entertaining badgering between the production and on-air talent made the environment a place I cannot wait to return to. John Dennis even had some kind words for me on Twitter after I left:

So this is what Purely For Sport has lead me to. I have an internship this summer with a morning radio station I have listened to since Freshman year, a place where I go daily to listen to sports opinions and relax and enjoy myself.

While the experiences themselves were unique to me and my pursuits, I believe blogging helps to give a person a mode through which they can talk about what they are passionate about. It creates an outlet for drawing people who have similar interests and allows you to engage in interaction with people who are equally as passionate. It has helped me, and it has helped others, as well. Another student at my school, Andrew Lang, saw what I did and started his own political blog as a device to discuss Senate races, and possible future President-elects.

Whether it is fashion or politics; film or cooking – writing and articulating things you like helps. It is truly an incredible feeling when you can argue about something you enjoy with someone you do not really know, but that is interested in a similar field. It makes me feel better and it has, as evidenced above, focused me and fed my ambition and drive.

Lastly, I want to say thank you. Thank you to anyone who has ever read Purely For Sport, it means a great deal to me that you would take time out of your busy day to read my opinion on something that happened in the sports-world. As of two weeks ago, this blog passed 4,000 views for the year, which is exponentially higher than I ever expected – and you helped make that happen. So once again, thank you, I appreciate your time.

Purely For Sport has led me to all this. Here is to hoping it will lead to even more.

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